Are you housing Australia’s most promiscuous critter at your place? It’s quite possible! Two weeks of non-stop mating with multiple partners and each encounter lasting up to 14 hours – this is just a snippet of the life of an Antechinus, and, well I’m exhausted already!
So maybe you’ve seen these little marsupials around. From a distance they look just like a house mouse and it’s not unusual for them to take up residence in houses, garages or garden sheds particularly in regional areas where they can find plenty of their preferred food – insects. The Yellow-footed, Brown and Dusky Antechinus are our three local species and this month we bring you info about these fascinating creatures.
Straight after their two week mating frenzy, which occurs between August and September each year, every single male drops dead, living for 11 months only.
Females survive to wean their first litter and then they also die, although occasionally some live for 2-3 years.
On average 8 to 10 young are produced in each litter, which is a lot for marsupials.
Antechinus lack traditional marsupial pouches, instead undeveloped young cling to teats on mum’s belly. Mum then drags her babies around under her until they’re too big to carry which is usually around five weeks old.
Antechinus are relatively easy to live with. They’re not known for gnawing cables, stealing food from the pantry or being smelly.
Antechinus or house mouse?
Antechinus are easily mistaken for the common house mouse which is an introduced pest. Here are a few tips to help distinguish the two and hopefully prevent our cute natives being taken to with the broom or, dare I say, ratsak?
Look for behavioural clues. Antechinus are super agile, they tend to hop or bounce around and are able to climb up walls. They can also be quite curious and are known for their love of people watching. House mice tend to scurry about, stay closer to the ground and are not so brazen.
Physically, Antechinus have little notches in the sides of their ears, long pointy snouts and cat like razor sharp teeth. House mice have smooth ears, less pointy noses and bucky front teeth.
Whilst our Antechinus species aren’t endangered they are at threat from habitat loss and predation by cats. Helping them survive can be as easy as knowing how to identify them, keeping cats inside and providing habitat in your garden. Remember they really like insects, so a garden with leaf litter and fallen branches (homes for insects) is good.
If you think you have Antechinus at home and would like to know more get in touch with WIRES Northern rivers www.wiresnr.org. The gorgeous photo of a ‘yellow footed antechinus’ was kindly contributed by Linda Fearn.
Landcare times for April
Wed 3rd (
Wed 10th (8:30am – 10:30am): Boulder Beach – Coast Rd car park
Wed 17th (8:30am – 10:30am): Lower Lennox Point – Surfer’s car park
Wed 24th (8:30am – 10:30am): Boulder Beach – Coast Rd car park
For further info, visitlennoxheadlandcare.org email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone Shaun on 0448 221 210 or find us on Facebook ‘Lennox Head Landcare’.